Beachcombing Belle (film #5 on Exploitation Mini-Classics, Vol. 2 (Sinister Cinema)). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

A pretty female beachcomber does her laundry in a tidepool, stripping down to a skimpy bikini in the process, all so that we can leer at her. And in case we don't get the idea, a smarmy narrator misses no opportunity to make leering comments. This would be highly offensive, except it's so tame by today's standards that all you can do is laugh at how pathetic it is.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

Safety Belt for Susie (film #7 on The Educational Archives, Vol. 3: Driver's Ed DVD (Fantomas, 2001). Also, film #2 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 4: Menace and Jeopardy CD-ROM (Voyager)). [Category: Public Service]

A couple's little girl, Nancy, takes her life-sized doll Susie with her everywhere, except to her week-long visit to Grandma's (she can't take it on the plane). While driving to pick up Nancy at Grandma's, with Susie in the backseat, the couple gets into a bad auto accident. Fortunately, they were both wearing their seatbelts, so they avoid serious injury. But Susie is thrown into the front seat and has her head almost wrenched off her body. Gasp! What if that had been Nancy?, they think. They go to the doctor to treat their minor cuts and scrapes, and the doctor just happens to be a traffic safety expert. He tells them about crash studies at UCLA, and we see a bunch of slow motion scenes of cars with dolls in them crashing into each other. Needless to say, Nancy, and Susie too, wear seatbelts thereafter. The plot of this film is one of the more ludicrous I've seen. But the real meat of the film is the crash footage with the dolls. I suppose they were trying to make it shocking, but it comes off as gleeful and sensuous, which undercuts their message just a bit, I think. It doesn't help that the experimenters taped names to the dolls' foreheads for some odd reason. One of the most memorable of the safety films.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (VCI Home Video, 1992). [Category: Outtakes & Obscurities]

Another collage of film clips, like The Atomic Cafe, only this one is about the Depression. The story is told through a montage of both newsreel footage of actual events and clips from Hollywood movies of the period. That's appropriate, because Hollywood was at its peak during the Depression, and images from the movies were a part of everyone's consciousness during the period. And despite their idealism and hokiness, the movie clips do reflect the feelings stirred up by the newsreel footage, making an interesting counterpoint. A great historical film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

The Eagle Has Landed (film #1 on NASA DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: News]

This film features edited highlights of the Apollo 11 mission––the first mission to land a man on the moon. TV footage alternates with official NASA film footage and photographs to tell the story of the mission. The narration is straightforward and minimal, which is good from an ephemera standpoint, as it doesn't interfere with the highly interesting and visually arresting footage. The film is pretty short for its subject matter and I wish more tv footage had been included. Still, it's a pretty good document of what was probably the most important and memorable space mission ever.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Better Reading

Better Reading . Teenager Harold Wilson has a problem—he can’t read for (expletive deleted). So he has to spend all his free time studying ...